Two people were wounded, one seriously, in a taxi shootout at a Durban taxi rank yesterday morning. The shooting was sparked by taxi rivalry.
Eye-witnesses said the shooting started at 4am and that several taxi drivers and passengers were assaulted and robbed.
A security guard from the taxi violence unit, who did not want his name published, said they received a call at about 4am from drivers of the Clermont Taxi Association.
They said they were being attacked by the Durban Liner Taxi Association and other associations. They said they had been assaulted and robbed of their money and cellphones and their passengers were ejected from their taxis.
"On our arrival, there was a stand-off between two associations. We asked the police to close the central point so that taxis could not load passengers, to avoid bloodshed. While negotiations continued, Durban Liner members started shooting at Clermont Taxi Association drivers, who retaliated.
"Two passengers were hit, one seriously. It was like the Wild West," he said.
He said the attackers then went to other Clermont ranks and assaulted and robbed people.
"They ran amok and acted insane. Police had to intervene and stop them at two other ranks," the eye-witness added.
Bongi Ndlela 28, of KwaMaphumulo, said she had just crossed the main road next to the Clermont-Kwadabeka Taxi Association rank at 7am when she heard gunshots.
"The Clermont Taxi Association members just opened fire, shooting randomly in all directions. We were caught in the middle and did not know what to do.
"People were screaming and some ducked. It was chaotic. One lady was shot in the leg and others were running in all directions. Police had to fire in the air to calm the situation," said Ndlela.
Police spokesman Inspector Michael Reed said a route dispute leading to the newly expanded Pavilion Shopping Mall was the main course of the conflict.
"It started as early as 4am when the Durban Liner Taxi Association, South-North Beach Taxi Association, Pinetown Taxi Association and Clermont Taxi Association forced their way into the Clermont taxi rank and demanded to load passengers," said Reed.
He said while negotiations were going on, someone started shooting and two people were wounded and rushed to King Edward Hospital.
Reed said the rank would be closed until police were satisfied that the situation had returned to normal.
KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance chairman Eugene Hadebe urged the associations to solve their differences.
"We are trying very hard to make our industry the best, and it is disappointing that some people still believe that guns can solve problems.
"It's a pity, especially because taxi owners are always safe and passengers suffer. It has to stop," said Hadebe.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele said those responsible should be jailed.
"Police should not return to their offices without arresting anyone, especially taxi operators who continue to break the law."